A Chinese National working for an American-owned construction company is grabbed off the streets of Shanghai in broad daylight. His one-man security detail goes missing as well.
Rutherford Risk is a firm specializing in extraction: the negotiation for, and the recovery of hostages. Private investigation is illegal in today’s China. Operating within her borders will be difficult at best.
The security company recruits two unique outsiders to do their bidding. Grace Chu is a forensic accountant hired to follow the money; John Knox is a civilian with unparalleled training in both combat and culture. Grace’s top-notch American education and Chinese military service make her an unassuming, but effective, operative, while Knox’s take-no-prisoners attitude brings them perilously close to harm. Following the money leads to more complex – and dangerous – consequences than either anticipated. Who is actually behind the kidnapping? And more important, can Knox and Grace locate the two hostages ahead of the deadline?
Ridley Pearson was given the chance to spend a year in Shanghai with his family, and his experience with, and appreciation for, China and its people is evident in The Risk Agent, the first book in a new series. When a Chinese citizen, Lu Hao, is kidnapped, along with his American security detail, Clete Danner, John Knox is called in to help by Rutherford Risk. At first, he’s dubious and hesitant to take the job, but has a disabled brother, Tommy, that needs constant care and attention, and the money from this job is much needed. They have a good import/export business running, but cash is always scarce, so he takes the job, but with reservations. Rutherford Risk has been hired by the American Construction firm that Lu Hao worked for in order to facilitate the ransom drop or an extraction of the captives. John has had experience with this kind of thing, and his plans lean heavily toward extraction. Also, for John, it’s personal, since Clete Danner is a close friend. He’s soon paired up with Grace Chu, a forensic accountant with ties to the kidnapped Chinese national, and an agenda of her own, and the game is afoot.
Speaking of agendas, there are a ton of folks that have agendas in The Risk Agent, including officers with the People’s Armed Police and possibly the CIA. Grace Chu is not only savvy with her mind, but with her fists, and proves an invaluable asset to John Knox. Foreigners don’t get behind the scenes easily in China, so her expertise is absolutely necessary to their mission. Lu Hao’s job for the construction company was paying out bribes to facilitate the building of luxury properties, so unsavory types are a plenty, and big money is involved. It took a bit of time for things to get going for me, but once they did, it was like a runaway train…in China. Time is of the essence to ensure the captives’ survival, but of course, this isn’t just a simple kidnapping, and navigating the ins and outs of rampant bribery, corporate espionage, and the Chinese underworld makes for a pretty fun ride. It’s hard not to like John Knox, but I especially liked Grace Chu. She’s like the proverbial onion: lots and lots of layers; it was fun getting to know her, and she shows infinite patience in showing partner Knox (a waiguoren, or foreigner) the intricacies of Chinese culture. There were a couple of clunky bits in the narrative in the form of some slightly awkward (but not detailed) love scenes, and some repetition of some lines, however, I read an uncorrected proof, so these things might have been fixed in the final draft. Either way, I quite enjoy a cinema-ready thriller every now and then, with lots of twists, turns, double crosses, and action, and this one more than fit the bill. Also, I’ve long been fascinated with China, and bustling, dynamic Shanghai is an undeniably exciting locale for a thriller. It will be fun to see where he takes Knox and Grace next!